Select a circular saw that will meet your needs
Circular saws are among the most versatile and widely used of all saws. They allow crosscuts, ripping, beveling and plunge cuts in addition to cutting materials ranging from paneling to framing timbers to cement. There are a few main types of circular saws and a wide array of features to choose from. Before you learn about all the available options, use these questions to get yourself thinking about what you need:
What applications and materials will you be using your circular saw for?
Are you more concerned about power and performance or convenience and ease of use?
Will you use the circular saw for extended periods of time, such as throughout a work day?
Will you have access to power outlets? How much freedom of movement will you need?
Type, Applications and Design Features
Before you get into more detailed features, you need to decide what type of circular saw you need. The two main designs are worm drive and sidewinder. You also have the option of cordless circular saws and trim saws. Always keep the intended applications in mind as you evaluate the benefits of each type.
Worm-Drive Saws: Saws with a worm-drive design can cut studs and plywood all day without a whimper, making them a traditional favorite among some professional carpenters. The motor on a worm-drive saw is located parallel to the blade, delivering enough torque to cut through wet lumber and concrete time and time again. In the case of a worm-drive model, heavy duty also means heavy weight. If you don't really need all that power, your arms and back may appreciate a saw that is lighter to hold and carry. Less common hypoid-gear saws offer power, performance and design features that are similar to worm-drive saws.
Sidewinder Saws: Sidewinder saws, also known as traditional or in-line saws, are popular on many construction sites and are the overwhelming choice of homeowners. The motor on a sidewinder is perpendicular to the blade, allowing the saw to be lighter but sacrificing some power. If you do plan to use your circular saw for heavy-duty cutting but don't want the extra weight of a worm-drive saw, sidewinders with helical gearing deliver increased torque.
Cordless Saws: Cordless saws offer easy portability, eliminating the need to haul around bulky extension cords or portable generators. For cordless convenience, you'll have to sacrifice some torque, as well as the unlimited run time offered by corded saws. Cordless saws also tend to have a smaller blade diameter than the standard corded size of 7-1/4", reducing the material thickness you can cut, especially if you tilt the blade.
Trim Saws: Circular saws with a particularly small blade diameter, usually 3-1/2" to 4-1/2", are commonly known as trim saws. Designed for finish carpentry work and other applications that involve thinner materials, trim saws are a smart choice for many crafts and home improvement projects, as well as a variety of professional applications.
|Type||Blade Diameter||Power||Typical Weight||Key Benefits||Recommended Application|
||7.5 to 10 lbs.||
||Light- to medium-duty home and professional use|
|Sidewinder Saws||5" to more than 10"||
||6 to 10 lbs.||
||Light- to heavy-duty home and professional use|
|Trim Saws||3-1/2" to 4-1/2"||
||4 to 7 lbs.||
||Jobs requiring shallower cuts, such as finish carpentry work|
|Worm-Drive or Hypoid-Gear Saws||
||13 to 15 lbs.||
||Extremely demanding professional and home applications, such as framing|
Bevel Capability: Beveling capability allows you to tilt the base to make angled cuts. Look for tool-less adjustment and positive stops for improved efficiency and accuracy when adjusting for common angles.
Depth Control: The depth of cut is largely determined by the diameter of the blade. Check depth-of-cut specifications at 90° and 45° to determine what blade diameter you'll need for the various thickness of materials that you work with. Look for depth controls that provide good visibility, easy access and simple adjustments.
Visibility: A clear view of the cut line is critical. If you are right-handed but prefer a saw with a blade to the right of the motor, look for a notch in the upper blade guard to enhance visibility.
Electric Brake: An electric brake stops the blade quickly when you release the trigger, enhancing safety and helping you get ready for the next cut more quickly.
Easy-Change Blade System: Some saws offer one-step blade changes, either with or without the use of a tool. This is especially important to minimize downtime if you switch blades frequently.
Rip Fence: A rip fence improves accuracy and efficiency when cutting parallel to the edge of the workpiece. Longer fences, or guides, offer better control.
Heavy-Duty Base: Look for a base that can survive a fall. Cast-metal and reinforced-steel bases with ridges resist bending better than flat aluminum or stamped-steel bases, though they can add weight.
Magnesium Housing: A magnesium housing protects the motor, extending tool life without adding a lot of weight to the saw.
Adjustable Handle: An adjustable handle offers multiple positions for enhanced comfort and control in a wider range of applications.
Cushioned Handle(s): Cushioned main and auxiliary handles make long, sweaty projects more comfortable.
Dust Management: A dust blower removes dust from the cut line, enhancing visibility, and a dust port allows connection to a shop vac or dust bag to collect sawdust as you cut.
Laser Line: A built-in laser projects a line on your workpiece for enhanced accuracy and efficiency on straight cuts.
Work Light: A built-in work light improves visibility in low-light situations without the need to drag out or rig up a separate light fixture.
Rafter Hook: Models with a built-in hook offer quick, out-of-the-way storage between cuts and projects.
Cord Convenience: Long, flexible, rubber cords provide more freedom of movement than short, plastic cords. A cord clip helps keep the cord away from the blade so you don't cut through it, while a detachable cord offers easy replacement. A lighted plug shows you at a glance if the tool is live.